The last time Georgia played a game in Lexington, Kentucky, Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a last-second field goal that gave Georgia its fifth win of the season.
On Nov. 5, 2016, Blankenship wasn’t yet the well known figure he is today, and he didn’t have near the rapport he does now.
“I think that certainly gave him the confidence, gave us the confidence in him that he was a pressure player and enjoyed the moment and did a good job of that,” head coach Kirby Smart said of Blankenship’s game-winning field goal on Nov. 5, 2016.
Blankenship ignited social media when he kept his helmet on throughout an on-field post-game interview after his game-winning 25-yard field goal. Since then, it seems his notoriety has only increased.
“That was a big kick in a heck of a stadium with a great crowd like Kentucky,” junior defensive back Tyrique McGhee said. “When Rod hit that, I think that started Rod, kind of his fame.”
Blankenship said he thinks fans got to know who he was earlier, in his first career game against Ole Miss on Sept. 24, 2016.
“I think that people started to know who I was when I actually missed my first career field goal against Ole Miss, and the internet kinda flamed me,” Blankenship said. “That was a rough introduction to my college career, but I think I'd say it was necessary for me to just learn the mindset that I needed to just improve and try and develop whatever ways I possibly could.”
After that game, Blankenship went on to make 10 straight field goals, including the game-winner against Kentucky that gave Georgia a 24-27 victory.
“When Rod hit that, I think that started Rod, kind of his fame.”
- Tyrique McGhee, Georgia defensive back
While fans may have known who he was before the game-winner, Blankenship thinks that kick may have changed their minds about him for good.
“I think, after that [Kentucky] game, it went from people roasting me for being a kicker with glasses that still can't see the uprights to make a field goal, to 'Oh, those glasses actually help him make field goals,’” Blankenship said.
Blankenship wasn’t perfect for the rest of 2016 after kicking the game-winner, making just five of his last eight field goal attempts. But in 2017, he developed into one of the best kickers in college football.
Blankenship missed three field goal attempts in 2017. He made a 55-yard field goal against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and a 51-yard field goal against Alabama in the national championship. He has missed only two field goals this season, one of which was blocked.
“He's automatic,” McGhee said. “I'll be surprised if he ever missed one the rest of his life. The guy is clutch.”
When Georgia goes up against Kentucky at Kroger Field in Lexington this Saturday, Blankenship’s role could prove to be significant once again. Kentucky’s defense has allowed no more than 20 points in a game this season, so another close matchup decided by a field goal isn't out of the question.
After proving himself with a high-pressure kick in that game two years ago, Blankenship said he is up to the task.
“I think it was just a moment where I was able to just realize that I can do this,” Blankenship said. “I can go out there and I can execute for this team at a high level, and I can do the things they need me to when I'm called upon.”